The New York Jets have benched Wayne Hunter in favor of Austin Howard after it became obvious that Hunter was incapable of protecting the right side of the line. The benching comes only two days after coach Rex Ryan affirmed Hunter would remain the starter at right tackle.
“The more I went back and looked at where we’re at as a football team, and getting feedback from coaches, and knowing the history of Wayne’s success that Wayne had basically as a sixth man, I’ve decided that that’s the way we’re going to go,” Ryan told the media. “I’m going to put Wayne in that role, where really he excelled. And that’s being a guy that basically fits at — whether it’s a tackle, guard, tight end, all that kind of stuff. So I’m going to move Wayne back to that role.”
As for Austin Howard, Ryan had this to say, “We’re going to give Austin Howard a shot to be with this first group. I thought he earned that right. He played extremely well against Cincinnati [Bengals], did OK against the [New York] Giants, but really played well against Cincinnati, and this is what I want to do. I’m going to put him in that situation, and we’ll see how he does this week.”
Hunter, a 31-year old veteran had struggled last year and again this preseason and came under heavy fire for his inability to protect Mark Sanchez. Howard, 25, was signed off of the Baltimore Ravens practice squad last November and has only 4 NFL games under his belt. All four of Howard’s games came as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2010.
Whether or not Howard can be a stable piece of the front five is anyone’s guess. However, the Jets needed to do something. It was obvious after they traded for Jett Otah that the Jets were looking for an upgrade. However, after Otah failed his physicals and the trade was nullified, the Jets were back to square one. The free agent options aren’t that great with Kareem McKenzie representing the best right tackle on the market but there are whispers circulating that he is done. Howard is the Jets best option to turn the right tackle position back into a roadblock instead of the EZ-Pass lane it had become under Hunter.